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Call for light touch after the iron fist

Chris Woodhead's resignation sparks demand for a new, less punitive, inspection regime.

THE General Teaching Council, the new voice of the profession, this week led calls for radical changes to the school inspection system following the resignation of chief inspector Chris Woodhead.

Carol Adams, GTC chief executive, urged that his departure be the catalyst for a national debate on future Office for Standards in Education visits.

Mr Woodhead will leave OFSTED at the end of this month. Next spring he will begin work as a consultant for the Daily Telegraph and a PR company.

Delivering the most outspoken critique yet to emerge from the new council, Ms Adams, in an article for The TES, attacked the accountability demanded of teachers and schools as "excessive".

Ministers signalled their willingness to listen to reform proposals, although the official reaction was that no changes were currently under consideration.

The call from Ms Adams came as the National Association of Head Teachers unveiled an inspection model in which schools would work together with inspectors to identify and tackle problems.

Under its proposals (details on the TES website), inspection findings would not be made public until a year later, when a team of Her Majesty's Inspectors returned to the school to check progress.

Meanwhile, a conference at ondon University's Institute of Education this week heard a proposal that a system of self-inspection should replace the current OFSTED arrangements.

Peter Earley, a reader in education management at the institute, said schools should conduct their own inspections - against current OFSTED criteria - with inspectors merely carrying out "health checks".

Next month, a report by a former senior OFSTED resear-cher will contend that under Mr Woodhead OFSTED became a "campaigning organisation, rather than a traditional Government department".

Oxford University lecturer George Smith wrote or co-wrote several reports for OFSTED, some of which were never published. In the coming issue of the Oxford Review of Education he documents how four papers were delayed or never published because they did not reflect OFSTED thinking.

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CHRIS Woodhead could earn as much as pound;100,000 from a series of articles for the Daily Telegraph claiming to expose the fault-lines in Labour policies, senior national newspaper sources revealed this week.

An industry insider said: "If the Telegraph has bought a series on the inside track - revealing, for example, conversations with Tony Blair - that could be very valuable for a Tory broadsheet."

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